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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Moshe, Aharon, and Eliyahu - From Derashot leyemei Hapesach, pp. 68-69
Several midrashim compare the liberation from Egypt, which was led by Moshe, and the future liberation, in which Eliyahu will be involved. They both highlight the word, “anochi (I)” (Shemot Rabba 3). The midrash (Devarim Rabba 3) understands the pasuk,“Hashem’s way is in a storm and a tempest” (Nachum 1:3) as a reference to Moshe (storm) and Eliyahu (tempest). What is the connection between the first and last liberation and between the two holy leaders?
Why did Moshe avoid a leadership role when Hashem offered it, considering that the Torah describes him earlier as “going out to his brethren” and killing the Egyptian who was beating an Israelite? The midrash says that Moshe killed him by invoking the Divine Name. However, this raises questions. Why couldn’t he use the same technique to kill Paroh? Also, if he performed such a miracle, how did Datan and Aviram have the nerve to respond cynically, “Are you saying to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”
We must understand that Moshe’s attribute was din (justice) (Sanhedrin 6b). Din consists of turning that which exists into that which is desirable, without accepting the former as a fact of life. This is the matter of truthfulness, which is Hashem’s seal, and this is what Moshe used to kill the Egyptian with the Divine Name. The Divine Name is capable of killing all who sin, but it cannot be used half way. If it would be used to kill evil Egyptians, it would have to be applied to sinful Jews, as well. Could the Israelites survive the use of such a dangerous weapon? Actually, that was what Datan and Aviram were claiming. Moshe was indeed putting people like them in peril with his mouth, whether or not he intended to do so.
Moshe was affected by this argument and was afraid to use his skills and attributes to lead Bnei Yisrael. Chazal accuse Moshe of underestimating Bnei Yisrael’s greatness. Certainly, with that outlook, his fear of the damage he could cause the nation was understandable. He, thus, preferred that Aharon be the leader. Aharon was a prophet for 80 years, yet we do not find episodes of confrontations with other Jews during the period of his leadership. Aharon had the approach of: “In peace and in the straight path he walked with Me, and many did he return from sin” (Malachi 2:6; see Sanhedrin 6b). When the nation more or less follows the path and the infractions are limited, the type of leadership that Aharon engendered is preferable. Indeed, Aharon was the right person to serve as the kohen. However, Bnei Yisrael were idol worshippers, not so different from the Egyptians. Therefore, a leader was needed to perform a revolution of the national psyche, and an Aharon was not enough. Rather, they needed a Moshe, for whom the motto was, “Let truth bore a hole through the mountain” (ibid.).
When Moshe and Aharon left Paroh’s palace during their initial efforts to achieve liberation, they reiterated their opposition to the nature of Moshe’s leadership. Moshe responded to Hashem, saying “Why did You send me?” In other words, why didn’t He send Aharon? In fact, Hashem included Aharon in the leadership team, and a price was paid. Aharon was unable to provide the type of strong leadership needed to prevent the sin of the golden calf.
Moshe’s leadership incorporated two elements, which can be described as fathers and sons. Fathers represent the traditional practice. “We do things because that is what we do.” Often, their actions lack the fervor they deserve; however, they are very reliable. Sons represent the opposite. If they do not believe in something, they will not do it. However, whatever they do, they do with a fire. Moshe and Eliyahu had the “stormy” temperament which enabled them to almost miraculously unite the elements of fathers and sons. This is what the navi says about Eliyahu: “He will return the hearts of the fathers with sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers” (Malachi 3:24).
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